Staff may still get paid but not sup­pli­ers of pub chain

The Guardian - - Financial Coronaviru­s - Rob Davies

JD Wether­spoon has told its sup­pli­ers it will not pay them un­til pubs re­open af­ter the coro­n­avirus lock­down, but promised that staff will get their wages be­yond to­mor­row provided the govern­ment agrees a re­im­burse­ment scheme quickly enough.

With anger grow­ing over its be­hav­iour dur­ing the cri­sis, Wether­spoon con­firmed that it had told firms sup­ply­ing food, drinks and other ser­vices that they would not be paid un­til its 874 pubs were al­lowed to re­open.

Tim Martin, the com­pany’s founder and chair­man, had al­ready told its 43,000 staff that the chain could not af­ford to pay them af­ter to­mor­row.

The com­pany now says staff will get paid on 3 April, as long as the govern­ment backs its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the re­im­burse­ment scheme set out by the chan­cel­lor, Rishi Su­nak.

The govern­ment would also have to de­liver on its “fur­lough” scheme, pledged to busi­nesses strug­gling to pay wages dur­ing the lock­down, be­fore the end of April.

Un­der the scheme, the state will re­im­burse com­pa­nies for 80% of each staff mem­ber’s salary, up to a cap of £2,500 a month.

Wether­spoon has said it will top up the wages of higher-paid em­ploy­ees whose wages would ex­ceed that cap. It would not of­fer holiday pay and said that while con­tin­u­ing parental or adop­tion leave would con­tinue as usual, the po­si­tion of staff about to go on leave was “not clear”.

Hours worked by Wether­spoon staff for other busi­nesses in the mean­time were “likely” to be de­ducted from their fur­lough pay, it said.

The staff pay pro­posal sur­faced as Wether­spoon came un­der fire for telling sup­pli­ers that they would not be paid un­til its pubs re­opened.

It told sup­pli­ers: “We are ask­ing for a mora­to­rium on pay­ments, un­til the pubs re­open, at which point we in­tend to clear out­stand­ing pay­ments, within a short time­frame.”

The email, first pub­lished by the sus­tain­abil­ity web­site Foot­print, con­tin­ued: “We un­der­stand that this puts sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on our sup­pli­ers, but we are kindly ask­ing for your as­sis­tance dur­ing this very dif­fi­cult pe­riod.

The law al­lows sup­pli­ers to charge 8% statu­tory in­ter­est, on top of the Bank of Eng­land base rate, on late pay­ments.

Sean Up­son, a part­ner at Ste­warts law firm, said the com­pany may seek to use a “force ma­jeure” clause to free it­self of some con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions.

But he added: “Force ma­jeure is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. There is no le­gal prece­dent for us­ing it in this way.”

A spokesper­son for Wether­spoon con­firmed the let­ter to sup­pli­ers was gen­uine. The Guardian has asked Martin for com­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.